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Is a timber specialist inspection necessary when buying a house?

14 replies

FreddoBaggyMac · 21/01/2010 10:23

We are in the process of buying a beautiful (but very expensive, almost more than we can afford) 1920's house. The homebuyers report has come back with nothing major in terms of problems but there is this:

''We found no evidence of any significant timber decay in this property. We also found no signs of wood-boring insect infestation. However, older properties such as this one, are very susceptible to attack and infestation may well be discovered when the property is completely emptied. As
much of the property was covered up and costs for treatment could be high, it would be prudent to instruct a timber specialist to inspect all timbers and quote for any necessary treatment, before exchange of contracts.''

We have very little money left over from the house purchase and paying for a timber specialist would have to come out of the small budget we have left to buy necessities such as wardrobes! if problems are found we could obviously negotiate to have the cost of putting them right knocked off the price of the house, but I'm wondering how necessary an inspection really is in the first place.

Does anyone know if such an inspection is really necessary given that no problems have been found with the timber? Are they likely to find anything? Are they likely to pretend to find something?! Can anyone recommend a good company to use? We are in the West Midlands.

Many thanks.

OP posts:
MrsBadger · 21/01/2010 10:43

I wouldn;t bother - sounds like a standard para to cover the surveyors' arses

however next time I would shell out for a full structural survey rather than a homebuyers' report, esp for an older house.

FreddoBaggyMac · 21/01/2010 10:45

Thanks Mrs Badger, that't what we were thinking too. we didn't go for the full structural because we thought it might only advise us the 'investigate' even more things than the hundred odd listed in the homebuyers report

OP posts:
MadameCastafiore · 21/01/2010 10:49

See if the current vendor has had any inspections done over the last 20 years - we managed to get the guarantee when we bought our house that had been issued when the woman who owned it had the beams etc checked out.

You could always ask for the cost of the survey to be knocked off of the purchase price. You have to also consider the hassle of not having wardrobes for a year as opposed to the haslle of having to shell out for treatment to timbers etc which you can't negotiate upon the price for once you have bought the house.

FreddoBaggyMac · 21/01/2010 10:54

That's a great idea about the guarantees thanks - I will check!
The thing is we have got the house for a knock down price anyway and I don't know if the owner will be happy about knocking it down further... worth a try though!

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GrendelsMum · 21/01/2010 11:40

I think this is absolutely bonkers. Why on earth should the house have woodworm? I really wouldn't think that it's in the least bit necessary. Frankly, even if they find holes in the timber, that is not evidence of active woodworm infestation. Central heating raises the temperature of houses above what woodworm like, so a heated house should be woodworm-free.

I would just ignore this. Have a quick look round when the house is empty, if you like, but I think that paying a specialist would be silly.

FreddoBaggyMac · 21/01/2010 11:54

that's what I want to hear Grendels - very reassuring.

(You are not by any chance the owner of the house I'm buying are you?? )

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GrendelsMum · 21/01/2010 12:17

No! I had to look into this for my sister, who is just buying a house and who had a similar message in her survey. She did go ahead with the specialist timber inspection, and the results were totally meaningless.

FreddoBaggyMac · 21/01/2010 13:11

What do you mean by meaningless? did they say that pests could be present and they should have work done to be on the safe side? That's what I imagined might be the case.

OP posts:
GrendelsMum · 21/01/2010 13:59

Yes, that's exactly what they said. There were signs of woodworm (in a C17 century house, so not exactly surprising) so have some work done. Absolutely no sign that the woodworm was active, and the probability is that it isn't. She'll keep the house warm and keep an eye on the wood, and have treatment if there are signs of active infestation.

tispity · 22/01/2010 10:39

most damp and timber inspection companies will do quite a comprehensive reprt for free actually - you could arrange direct or via estate agents. most old houses will be identified as having one or the other (or both). inspection would involve lifting all carpets, laminate/tiles floors and even floorboards to inspect the joists. even then not v easy to assess accurately or put right

spiralqueen · 22/01/2010 11:07

We were in the same situation and had the specialist report done. It came back with evidence that the staircase needed to be replaced, plus there was also some dry rot in it, plus some damp that had not been picked up on the full survey. Although he did offer to organise the damp treatment (I am wary of someone using a survey like this to provide potential work for themselves) he only gave a provisional cost for the replacement of the staircase and was not offering to do that bit of work (which was estimated at substantially more than the damp to sort out).

The vendors also refused to have any of the carpets in the upstairs rooms lifted for a full inspection which was sounding alarm bells. When we gave them a copy of the report they refused to either reduce the price or do the work themselves or meet us halfway.

The timber report alerted us to all sorts of problems, actual and potential, so we have walked away before it ended up costing a fortune to sort out. I would have it done, especially in an older house. Just bear in mind that a) find out what rot/infestation you can ignore and what needs action and b) bear in mind that they might just be trying to create work for themselves

Good luck

tispity · 22/01/2010 12:50

also remember that even if you decide to have the costly work done, these companies guarantees don't mean anything as they wrap up about every five years and immediately start to trade under a slightly different name

Zone2mum · 22/01/2010 14:23

We had a timber survey done on the place we were hoping to buy, and even though the surveyor wasn't able to lift carpets to view joists it turned up such a horrendous amount of problems requiring extensive remedial work (expensive, and would have made the place uninhabitable while works being done which defeated the point of moving there for us) that we ended up pulling out of the purchase. If woodworm is the only issue, fine, but if there are concerns as to external ground levels, breached damp courses, dry rot etc then much better to get a survey done: what's £150 for survey compared to £20k remedial work and all the hassle too...

tispity · 22/01/2010 14:30

aa lot of their recommendations will be grounded in scaremongering, ensuring they have enough work to survive, covering their backs - how many houses have you heard about that have simply crumbled and fallen down due to woodworm? dry rot/severe damp having a structural impact is different and would have been blindingly obvious from the start

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